In Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), the Joker looms large. The villain has a huge presence in the film and swallows up every scene he is in.
It’s not surprising really – the Clown Prince of Crime is played to perfection by Jack Nicholson, an actor born to embody the role. His take on the Joker is legendary and he provides one of the standout performances in the Batman Anthology.
However, while the Joker proves more than a match for Batman throughout the movie, he would be nothing without Bob the Goon. But who is Bob the Goon?
Bob the Goon
In the first Batman movie, Bob the Goon is the Joker’s righthand man. Before Jack Napier is transformed into the Joker, Bob is by his side and it is a place he remains post-transformation.
Bob is a criminal, a gangster, a two-bit hood; but he is also incredibly loyal. Wherever Napier/Joker goes, Bob is close behind.
Early into the movie, during an altercation between Napier and Lieutenant Eckhardt, Bob provides Jack with backup. When Eckhardt threatens Napier, Bob pulls a gun on the Lieutenant to demonstrate that he is always watching.
Later in the movie, when the Joker wants information on Vicki Vale, he turns to Bob. He trusts no one else.
The Joker even tells Bob that he is his “number 1 guy”. It is a position he retains for the majority of the movie.
Who played Bob the Goon?
In terms of his screen presence, actor Tracey Walter plays the role of Bob. Walter has an extensive acting career, having appeared in numerous films including Rumble Fish (1983), Conan the Destroyer (1984), Midnight Run (1988), Young Guns II (1990), Matilda (1996), Mighty Joe Young (1998), Erin Brockovich (2000), The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and many, many more.
Off screen, Walter is friends with Jack Nicholson. When it came to casting the role, that friendship helped to land him the part.
On the special edition DVD release of Batman, Tracey Walter, said:
“Bob looked up to the Joker; he admired him; he had respect for what he represented. It’s the same thing between Tracey and Jack Nicholson. I admire Jack, I respect his talent and what he’s accomplished, plus personally I like the guy – we’re friends. So, all that stuff as Tracey and Jack as two guys, friends, translates to Jack and Bob the Goon in the film Batman. That’s a nice thing to have happen.”
The friendship between Jack and Bob is an important part of the movie. It is just a shame that it comes to an end.
Why does the Joker kill Bob the Goon?
After suffering a defeat at the hands of Batman – a defeat which stops the Joker from killing countless citizens of Gotham City – the Joker turns to Bob and asks for his gun. Bob obliges and once the gun is handed over, the Joker pulls the trigger on his friend.
The Joker shoots Bob in cold blood, killing him instantly. The kill is so quick that Bob doesn’t see it coming.
But if the Joker and Bob are such good friends, why does the Joker shoot Bob? Is it because he has lost his temper with Batman and decides to take it out on Bob? Or is it something else?
A short temper would be the simple answer. A couple of times throughout the movie, the Joker is shown to have a short fuse, so this would explain the way he lashes out at Bob.
A more considered answer would suggest the Joker kills Bob because he knows the end is near. With his plans defeated, and his true criminal nature exposed, he knows it is only a matter of time before Batman stops him for good.
Better to kill off his best friend than see Batman do it? Maybe.
Perhaps, in the Joker’s own twisted sense of logic he feels it is better for Bob to be killed off quickly, without knowledge of his impending demise, rather than face whatever fate comes via Batman. There is never a definitive motive behind any of the Joker’s actions, but maybe Bob’s death is the Joker’s way of bringing a friendship to an end.
Either way, the end is truly the end for Bob. As soon as the Joker fires the gun, and tells his gang “I’m going to need a minute alone, boys”, Bob is never seen or mentioned again.
Bob’s inclusion in Batman is a one-off and it is unlikely he will appear in another Batman movie. For now, he remains the Joker’s only number 1 guy.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you would like further information about characters that appear in the Batman movies, be sure to check out my posts: ‘Who is Bane?’ and ‘Who is Robin?’.
You can also find other Batman movie related posts on I’ll Get Drive-Thru. Feel free to take a look around.